Sustainable Plant and Animal Production


Plant oil diets for carps

Nguyen TM, Mandiki SNM, Gense C, Tran TNT, Nguyen TH, Kestemont P. 2020. A combined in vivo and in vitro approach to evaluate the influence of linseed oil or sesame oil and their combination on innate immune competence and eicosanoid metabolism processes in common carp (Cyprinus carpio). Developmental & Comparative Immunology 102:103488. DOI: 10.1016/j.dci.2019.103488

Fish oil for aquaculture comes from fish stock that are currently overexploited. Consequently, fish oil is very expensive. Plant oils, much cheaper, could serve as ideal alternative lipid sources for fish diets. This study uses pure or mixed linseed and sesame oil to test innate immune competence and eicosanoid metabolism in common carp (Cyprinus carpio). Results show that plant oils did not induce any negative effects on fish growth, survival, and immune competence status. When the oils were mixed, carps even utilised the food more efficiently and seemed more effective in inducing a better immunomodulatory response when exposed to lipopolysaccharides of Escherichia coli through a more active eicosanoid metabolism process.


2 x Plant extract-based diets for striped catfish

Nhu TQ, Bich Hang BT, Bach LT, Buu Hue BT, Quetin-Leclercq J, Scippo M-L, Phuong NT, Kestemont P. 2019. Plant extract-based diets differently modulate immune responses and resistance to bacterial infection in striped catfish (Pangasianodon hypophthalmus). Fish & Shellfish Immunology 92:913–924. DOI: 10.1016/j.fsi.2019.07.025.

Nhu TQ, Bich Hang BT, Vinikas A, Bach LT, Buu Hue BT, Thanh Huong DT, Quetin-Leclercq J, Scippo M-L, Phuong NT, Kestemont P. 2019. Screening of immuno-modulatory potential of different herbal plant extracts using striped catfish (Pangasianodon hypophthalmus) leukocyte-based in vitro tests. Fish & Shellfish Immunology 93:296–307. DOI: 10.1016/j.fsi.2019.07.064.

Striped catfish (Pangasius hypophthalmus) is one of the most important commercial fish species cultured in Vietnam. Yet, intensive production with high stocking densities increases mortality rates due to bacterial infections and cause enormous economic losses. The use of herbal immunostimulants in aquaculture would offer an environmentally friendly approach in disease management. Two studies – in vivo & in vitro - confirmed the positive effects of medicinal plant extracts by improving the immune response of striped catfish. Both, hematological parameters (total red blood cells, white blood cells, lymphocytes, monocytes, and neutrophils) and humoral immune responses (lysozyme, complement and total immunoglobulin) of fish fed with extract-based diets were significantly higher than of those fed with the control diet. Ethanol plant extracts stimulated striped catfish immune system by affecting peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) and head kidney leukocytes (HKLs). The results offer an effective strategy to improve striped catfish health by enhancing their immune system, and to promote sustainable aquaculture.

Systemic defense activation in rice

Singh RR, Chinnasri B, De Smet L, Haeck A, Demeestere K, Van Cutsem P, Van Aubel G, Gheysen G, Kyndt T. 2019. Systemic defense activation by COS-OGA in rice against root-knot nematodes depends on stimulation of the phenylpropanoid pathway. Plant Physiology and Biochemistry. 142:202–210. DOI: 10.1016/j.plaphy.2019.07.003.

Infections with parasitic nematodes, e.g. the root-knot nematode (RKN), cause important agricultural losses in rice production. The conventional control of RKN with nematicides is challenging and not environmentally friendly. This study tests formulations of chitosan oligomers (COS) and pectin-derived oligogalacturonides (OGA), COS-OGA, for their potential and mode-of-action as preventive measures to control RKN Meloidogyne graminicola infection in rice. FytoSol® and FytoSave® applied to leaves 24h before nematode inoculation reduced root-galling and nematode development significantly, showing for the first time a systemic effect of these defence elicitors. The systemic defence activation is not correlated with defence hormone accumulation in the rice shoots and roots but dependent on the stimulation of the phenylpropanoid pathway.

Plant oil diets for common carp

Nguyen TM, Mandiki SNM, Tran TNT, Larondelle Y, Mellery J, Mignolet E, Cornet V, Flamion E, Kestemont P. 2019. Growth performance and immune status in common carp Cyprinus carpio as affected by plant oil-based diets complemented with β-glucan. Fish & Shellfish Immunology 92:288–299. DOI: 10.1016/j.fsi.2019.06.011.

A major constraint in the future of aquaculture is the limited availability of fish meal and fish oil. Alternative solutions to feed fish with plant products would be much cheaper and much more abundant. Most plant-derived oils contain polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) but no long chain PUFAs (LC-PUFA, > 18C), that play an important role in fish (and human) health. Omnivorous fish species such as the common carp (Cyprinus carpio) are able to biosynthesise LC-PUFAs from plant oil PUFA precursors. This study compares the immunocompetence status of fish fed with fish- and plant oil. After bacterial infection, mortality rate did not differ. Thus, common carp fed plant oil-based diets are able to produce substantial amounts of LC-PUFA for sustaining growth rate, immune status and disease resistance similar to fish fed a fish oil-based diet.

Cloning and modelling of enzymes

Tinti E, Geay F, Lopes Rodrigues M, Kestemont P, Perpète EA, Michaux C. 2019. Molecular cloning and 3D model of a fatty-acid elongase in a carnivorous freshwater teleost, the European perch (Perca fluviatilis). 3 Biotech 9:242. DOI: 10.1007/s13205-019-1773-x.

The European perch (Perca fluviatilis) is a carnivorous freshwater fish able to metabolise polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) into highly unsaturated fatty acids (HUFA), that are essential fatty acids for humans and animals. This makes it a potential candidate for sustainable aquaculture development, since input-intensive fish oil could be replaced by vegetable oil. This study investigates especially the fatty-acid elongase (ELOVL) family, one of the two enzymatic systems implied in the HUFA biosynthesis. To gain knowledge on its molecular structure, molecular cloning and 3D modelling approaches are applied.

The best diet for pikeperch larvae

El Kertaoui N, Lund I, Assogba H, Domínguez D, Izquierdo MS, Baekelandt S, Cornet V, Mandiki SNM, Montero D, Kestemont P. 2019. Key nutritional factors and interactions during larval development of pikeperch (Sander lucioperca). Scientific Reports 9:7074. DOI: 10.1038/s41598-019-43491-1.

Pikeperch as great potential for European aquaculture. However, nutritional requirements for freshwater species are yet not well understood. Following a fractional factorial experimental design, this study is a first attempt to evaluate the simultaneous effects of selected fatty acids, vitamins and minerals, in total, 8 nutritional variables to identify their respective importance and interactions in pikeperch larval development. Survival, growth rate, sekletal anomalies etc. were analysed. Essential elements in larval diet were Ca/P, long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids and vitamins (C & E).

Vegetable oils for catfish

Sourabié A, Mandiki SNM, Geay F, Ahoulé AG, Naert N, Toguyeni A, Kestemont P. Tropical Vegetable Oils Do Not Alter Growth Performance in African Catfish through a High n-6 Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids Biosynthesis Capacity. Lipids 0. DOI: 10.1002/lipd.12145.

Fish oil, usually used for fish nutrition in aquaculture, was completely replaced by vegetable oils to feed African catfish. This did not affect growth performance with the exception of Shea butter diet, where growth was lower. Other indicators (muscle arachidonic acid, gene expression in the liver) support the recommendation that fish oil could be replaced by desert date oil.

Pikeperch & salinity

Lund I, Rodríguez C, Izquierdo MS, El Kertaoui N, Kestemont P, Reis DB, Dominguez D, Pérez JA. 2019. Influence of salinity and linoleic or α-linolenic acid based diets on ontogenetic development and metabolism of unsaturated fatty acids in pike perch larvae (Sander lucioperca). Aquaculture 500:550–561. DOI: 10.1016/j.aquaculture.2018.10.061.

Pike perch farming predominantly takes place in freshwater. However, their osmotic tolerance in a saline environment may offer a growth potential for rearing this teleost fish in low saline waters. The study examines effects of fatty acids and salinity at low saline rearing conditions. A detailed evaluation of the different types of skeleton anomalies as well as the expression of related molecular markers was conducted for the first time in the larval phases of this species. One of several articles published within the project Diversify!

Pikeperch & Light

Baekelandt S, Mandiki SNM, Schmitz M, Kestemont P. 2019. Influence of the light spectrum on the daily rhythms of stress and humoral innate immune markers in pikeperch Sander lucioperca. Aquaculture 499:358–363. DOI: 10.1016/j.aquaculture.2018.09.046.

The culture of Pikeperch (Sander lucioperca) is still limited due to impaired growth and high mortality during the young developmental stages. Inadequate rearing conditions probably increase stress levels since aquaculture management has not been optimized yet. This study investigates the daily variations of stress markers (plasma cortisol and glucose and some humoral innate immune markers) and the effect of light spectrum on these variations.


Alternative soil amendments

Li, Z, Delvaux, B, Yans, J, Dufour, N, Houben, D, & Cornelis, J-T 2018, ‘Phytolith-rich biochar increases cotton biomass and silicon-mineralomass in a highly weathered soil’, Journal of Plant Nutrition and Soil Science, vol. 181, no. 4, pp. 537–546, doi: 10.1002/jpln.201800031

Non‐essential silicon (Si) is beneficial to plants by improving photosynthetic activity and alleviating stresses. Natural soil weathering and removal of harvested biomass leads to desilication. Si‐rich biomass (e.g. Miscanthus) can be transformed into biochar (= charcoal used as a soil amendment) to supply bioavailable Si. The authors show that Miscanthus biochar is an alternative Si amendment to supply bio-available Si, increase plant biomass, and promote the biological cycle of Si in the soil–plant system. The positive impact of a Si-rich biochar was larger in old, desilicated, highly-weathered Nitisol.

 Diets for pikeperch larvae

Lund, I, Kertaoui, NE, Izquierdo, MS, Dominguez, D, Hansen, BW, & Kestemont, P 2018, ‘The importance of phospholipids combined with long-chain PUFA in formulated diets for pikeperch (Sander lucioperca) larvae’, British Journal of Nutrition, vol. 120, no. 6, pp. 628–644, doi: 10.1017/S0007114518001794

Pikeperch (Sander lucioperca; also: zander) is considered one of the most valuable food fish native to Europe. This study aimed to determine optimal dietary levels of soyabean lecithin (SBL)-derived phospholipids (PL) in starter feeds for pikeperch larvae. Liver proteomic analyses, physiological expression and interactions in larval proteins, bone anomalies, digestive enzymatic activity, candidate gene expression and skeleton morphogenesis were examined. The supplementation of essential fatty acids had beneficial effects on pikeperch larvae development.

Possible alternatives to control blight disease in potatoes

van Aubel, G, Serderidis, S, Ivens, J, Clinkemaillie, A, Legrève, A, Hause, B and Van Cutsem, P 2018, Oligosaccharides successfully thwart hijacking of the salicylic acid pathway by Phytophthora infestans in potato leaves. Plant Pathology doi:10.1111/ppa.12908

Potato late blight (caused by Phytophthora infestans), the most important potato disease worldwide, requires massive amounts of fungicides. Stimulating the plant’s innate immunity opens ways to new biological plant protection tools such as elicitor molecules. This study shows that especially one elicitor oligosaccharide - FytoSol, a new composition still under development by the spin-off FytoFend - was efficient in controlling the diversion of late blight. It could become part of an integrated pest management strategy allowing for reduction of fungicide use and related environmental impact in potato fields.

Optimal aquaculture modalities for pikeperch

Baekelandt, S, Redivo, B, Mandiki, SNM, Bournonville, T, Houndji, A, Bernard, B, El Kertaoui, N, Schmitz, M, Fontaine, P, Gardeur, J-N, Ledoré, Y, & Kestemont, P 2018, ‘Multifactorial analyses revealed optimal aquaculture modalities improving husbandry fitness without clear effect on stress and immune status of pikeperch Sander lucioperca’, General and Comparative Endocrinology, vol. 258, pp. 194–204, doi: 10.1016/j.ygcen.2017.08.010

High mortality and impairment in growth rate during pikeperch (Sander lucioperca) ongrowing are among the major bottlenecks for its development in aquaculture. These failures may be related to high stress responsiveness since the rearing conditions are not yet optimized for this species. The objectives were to characterize the stress and immunological responses of pikeperch to major aquaculture modalities, and to identify the optimal aquaculture conditions for improving its welfare status.

Reproduction performances of pikeperch

Khendek, A, Chakraborty, A, Roche, J, Ledoré, Y, Personne, A, Policar, T, Żarski, D, Mandiki, R, Kestemont, P, Milla, S, & Fontaine, P 2018, ‘Rearing conditions and life history influence the progress of gametogenesis and reproduction performances in pikeperch males and females’, Animal, vol 12(11), pp. 2335-2346, DOI: 10.1017/S1751731118000010

Pikeperch (Sander lucioperca) is a highly valuable fish in Europe and could be a promising candidate for the development of aquaculture. However, its reproduction in the wild highly depends on the season demanding a controlled photothermal program for their domestication. This study investigated gametogenesis and reproduction of two groups of pikeperch with different life histories. Only those fish that had been exposed to natural changes in temperature/photoperiod conditions were able to spawn successfully.


Clinckemaillie A, Decroës A, van Aubel G, Santos SC dos, Renard ME, Van Cutsem P, Legrève A. 2017. The novel elicitor COS-OGA enhances potato resistance to late blight. Plant Pathology 66:818–825. DOI: 10.1111/ppa.12641.

Douxfils, J, Fierro-Castro, C, Mandiki, R, Emile, W, Tort, L & Kestemont, P 2017, 'Dietary β-glucans differentially modulate immune and stress-related gene expression in lymphoid organs from healthy and Aeromonas hydrophila-infected rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss)' Fish and Shellfish Immunology, vol 63, pp. 285-296. DOI: 10.1016/j.fsi.2017.02.027

Khendek, A, Alix, M, Viot, S, Ledoré, Y, Rousseau, C, Mandiki, R, Kestemont, P, Policar, T, Fontaine, P & Milla, S 2017, 'How does a domestication process modulate oogenesis and reproduction performance in Eurasian perch?' Aquaculture, vol 473, pp. 206-214. DOI: 10.1016/j.aquaculture.2017.02.003

Khuyen, TD, Mandiki, SNM, Cornet, V, Douxfils, J, Betoulle, S, Bossier, P, Reyes-López, FE, Tort, L & Kestemont, P 2017, 'Physiological and immune response of juvenile rainbow trout to dietary bovine lactoferrin' Fish & Shellfish Immunology, vol 71, pp 359-371. DOI: 10.1016/j.fsi.2017.10.027

Mandiki, R, Milla, S, Nkogo Robles, S & Kestemont, P 2017, 'Corticosteroids deeply depress the in vitro steroidogenic capacity of Eurasian perch ovary at the end of the reproductive cycle' General and Comparative Endocrinology, vol 245, pp. 44-54. DOI: 10.1016/j.ygcen.2017.02.002

Mellery, J, Brel, J, Dort, J, Geay, F, Kestemont, P, Francis, DS, Larondelle, Y & Rollin, X 2017, 'A n-3 PUFA depletion applied to rainbow trout fry (Oncorhynchus mykiss) does not modulate its subsequent lipid bioconversion capacity' British Journal of Nutrition, vol 117, no. 2, pp. 187–199. DOI: 10.1017/S0007114516004487

Mellery, J, Scalisi, F, Bonnineau, C, Kestemont, P, Rollin, X & Larondelle, Y 2017, 'Impact of lignans on the polyunsaturated fatty acid metabolic processing in a rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) cell line' Aquaculture, vol 476, pp. 106-110. DOI: 10.1016/j.aquaculture.2017.04.022

Schmitz, M, Baekelandt, S, Bequet, S & Kestemont, P 2017, 'Chronic hyperosmotic stress inhibits renal Toll-Like Receptors expression in striped catfish (Pangasianodon hypophthalmus, Sauvage) exposed or not to bacterial infection' Developmental and Comparative Immunology, vol 73, pp. 139-143. DOI: 10.1016/j.dci.2017.03.020


Khuyen TD, Mandiki SNM, Douxfils J, Cornet V, De Schryver P, Bossier P, Betoulle S, Tort L, Kestemont P. 2016. Physiological and immune pathway responses of rainbow trout juveniles to dietary supplementation with inulin and lactoferrin. Fish & Shellfish Immunology 53:117. DOI: 10.1016/j.fsi.2016.04.101.

Mandiki SNM, Redivo B, Baekelandt S, Douxfils J, Lund I, Höglund E, Kestemont P. 2016. Long-term tryptophan supplementation decreased the welfare and innate immune status of pikeperch juveniles. Fish & Shellfish Immunology 53:113–114. DOI: 10.1016/j.fsi.2016.04.090.

Mellery, J, Geay, F, Tocher, DR, Kestemont, P, Debier, C, Rollin, X & Larondelle, Y 2016, 'Temperature increase negatively affects the fatty acid bioconversion capacity of rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) fed a linseed oil-based diet' PLoS ONE, vol 11, no. 10, e0164478. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0164478

Redivo B, Mandiki SNM, Bournonville T, Baekelandt S, Fontaine P, Ledoré Y, Kestemont P. 2016. Characterization of neurophysiological and immune responses of pikeperch juveniles to major stress factors under intensive culture conditions. Fish & Shellfish Immunology 53:72. DOI: 10.1016/j.fsi.2016.03.084.

Schmitz, M, Douxfils, J, Mandiki, R, Morana, C, Baekelandt, S & Kestemont, P 2016, 'Chronic hyperosmotic stress interferes with immune homeostasis in striped catfish (Pangasianodon hypophthalmus, S.) and leads to excessive inflammatory response during bacterial infection' Fish & shellfish immunology, vol 55, pp. 550-8. DOI: 10.1016/j.fsi.2016.06.031

van Aubel, G, Cambier, P, Dieu, M & Van Cutsem, P 2016, 'Plant immunity induced by COS-OGA elicitor is a cumulative process that involves salicylic acid' Plant Science, vol 247, pp. 60-70. DOI: 10.1016/j.plantsci.2016.03.005